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First Ever VR Google Doodle Celebrates the Magic of Georges Méliès

Movies are artifical; their only aim is to fool you into believing in a reality that doesn’t really exist. That’s where the term “movie magic” comes from, because it’s a sleight of hand that, if done properly, can wow audiences just like a good illusionist. This has been the case since the very beginning of cinema, perhaps because one of the earliest true artists of cinema was the French illusionist, Georges Méliès. In the very earliest days of motion picture technology, Méliès made more movies than anyone since, about 520 films between 1896 and 1912. To celebrate the great showman of movies, Google has unveiled its very first 360-degree VR Google Doodle.

The beautiful, colorful animated short gives you a good taste of some of Méliès’ very finest films and camera tricks. He would almost always appear in the movies himself, and many would simply be showcases for his own brand of magic. He’d very often superimpose different pieces of film so he could appear in shots with himself. One of the most famous examples is his 1898 short Un homme de têtes, or “The Four Troublesome Heads.”

“In addition to being a magician, Méliès was an expert storyteller, so it was important for the Doodle to have a clear story. We approached it as if it were a ballet or play you watch at the theatre, where you get to choose where to look. In these situations, the spectator becomes the camera, editing their own film,” said Hélène Leroux, project art lead of the Doodle.

Some of Méliès’ most famous work had to do with outer space, which the Doodle’s title, “Back to the Moon” references. In the late Victorian period, science fiction was obsessed with going to the moon, but nobody quite knew how to do that. That didn’t stop Méliès from building giant puppets and scenery to give us a glimpse of what it might look like, or at least via the lens of imagination.

Perhaps his most famous work is the 1902 science fiction epic A Trip to the Moon which gave a lot of people the hope of one day going there. Also, they thought shooting you like a bullet was the only way it would work which we now know to be false. Also, the moon doesn’t have a face.

Since his films are so old–the oldest are 122 years old at this point–most of the existing ones can be found on YouTube and other places. It’s a shame so many of them have been lost to time, but thank the heavens above we have the ones we do. Hell, Martin Scorsese thought so much of him, he made a whole movie about it. (It was called Hugo. Good movie. Check it out.)

Images: Google

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

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